BSEE and BOEM Propose New Arctic Drilling Rules

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have published proposed rules that revise and add new requirements to regulations for exploratory drilling and related operations on the Outer Continental Shelf seaward of the State of Alaska.

At the same time, BOEM and BSEE have published a draft Environmental Assessment for the proposed Arctic drilling rules.

Comments on both the proposed rules and the draft EA are due to BSEE and BOEM on or before April 27, 2015.

Click here to read the proposed Arctic Drilling Rules.

NMFS Proposes LOA for Seismic in Cook Inlet

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has received a request from Apache Alaska Corporation for authorization to take marine mammals, by harassment, incidental to Apache’s proposed oil and gas exploration seismic survey program in Cook Inlet, Alaska, between March 1, 2015, and February 29, 2020. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, NMFS requests comments on its proposal to issue regulations and subsequent Letters of Authorization to Apache to incidentally harass marine mammals. Comments and information must be received by NMFS no later than March 25, 2015.

Click here to read NMFS’ Federal Register notice of this proposed LOA.

NMFS Seeks Nominations for Marine Mammal Scientific Review Groups

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service requests nominations to fill vacancies in two independent regional Scientific Review Groups to provide advice on a range of marine mammal science and management issues. NMFS seeks nominations for the the Atlantic and Pacific SRGs. Nominees should possess demonstrable expertise in the areas specified below, be able to conduct thorough scientific reviews of marine mammal science, and be able to fulfill the necessary time commitments associated with a thorough review of documents and attendance at one annual meeting.

BOEM’S New SEIS for Chukchi Discusses Acoustic Criteria for Fish and Marine Mammals

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has published its Chukchi Sea Planning Area Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193 In the Chukchi Sea, Alaska Final Second Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. This document includes extensive discussion of the effects of anthropogenic sound, including oil and gas seismic, on fish and marine mammals.  The discussion in this document may indicate BOEM’s current thinking on this issue.

For fish, the SEIS relies on Popper, et al., 2014, Sound Exposure Guidelines for Fishes and Sea Turtles: A Technical Report prepared by ANSI-Accredited Standards Committee S3/SC1 and registered with ANSI (2014); publication ASA S3/SC1.4 TR-2014; published by the Acoustical Society of America in collaboration with Springer. On page 226 of the SEIS, BOEM states:

President’s FY 2016 Budget Includes $170.9 Million for BOEM and 204.7 Million for BSEE

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 (FY 2016) budget includes a request of $170.9 million to fund the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The President’s budget request focuses on program responsibilities, such as the Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Program, oil and gas exploration and development plans, offshore renewable energy and environmental analysis and studies. The request includes an increase of $1.1 million over the FY 2015 enacted level, allowing the bureau to fund important initiatives to further develop the risk management program, add personnel needed to support an increase in OCS activity and build on the bureau’s collaborative efforts in ecosystem science.

BOEM’s DSEIS Relies on Current Mitigation measures for Marine Mammals

The U.S Bureau of Ocean Energy Management requests comment on a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for oil and gas leases in the Central and Eastern planning areas of the Gulf of Mexico. BOEM continues to rely on current mitigation measures to protect marine mammals. For example, the DSEIS states:

BOEM Seeks Comment on Draft SEIS for GoM Oil and Gas

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has published a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for proposed oil and gas Central Planning Area (CPA) Lease Sales 241 and 247 and Eastern Planning Area (EPA) Lease Sale 226 in the Gulf of Mexico (CPA 241/247/EPA 226 Draft Supplemental EIS).

Proposed CPA Lease Sale 241 and EPA Lease Sale 226 are tentatively scheduled to be held in March 2016, and proposed CPA Lease Sale 247 is tentatively scheduled to be held in March 2017. The CPA 241/247/ EPA 226 Draft Supplemental EIS updates the environmental and socioeconomic analyses in previous EISs.

NMFS Extends Comment Period for Arctic Ringed Seal Critical Habitat

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has published a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the threatened Arctic subspecies (Phoca hispida hispida) of the ringed seal (Phoca hispida) under the U.S. Endangered Species. In this publication NMFS announced that the public comment period would close on March 9, 2015.

Since then, NMFS has extended the comment period through March 31, 2015, to provide additional time for the public to submit comments. NMFS has also announced the specific date and location for a public hearing on the proposal in Bethel, AK, on February 26, 2015, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The public hearing will be held at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center, 420 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway, Bethel, AK 99559.